Choosing the Right Speaker Wire for Your Home Audio System

Written by: Tektel Team

How long will the speaker wire be?

It is by brand name? Or is it by price? Or is it the packaging that catches your eye? Believe it or not, this is something the manufacturers actually take into account and design to get your attention. The question is whether it is a good strategy for you.

Well, while the brand name popularity may give you peace of mind that the product is made well, it may or may not be the perfect fit for your project. Price tag is important, especially when you are on a tight budget, but when the price is dramatically lower than it should be – the product may not deliver the promised performance. When the price tag is high, it doesn’t automatically mean the product is perfect (though we’d like to believe it is so, after all, why pay top dollars) either. Same goes for eye catching packaging.

So how should you go about choosing the right speaker wire for your home audio system or other applications? The simple answer is by the speaker wire cable’s features. But what should you look for and where does one start? Not to worry, we’re getting there.

There is a list of question you can ask yourself in order to help making an educated decision when selecting the appropriate speaker wire for your application.

 

Speaker Wire Length

Speaker Wire Length

The length of the speaker wire cable will determine the gauge (thickness) required.  The American Wire Gauge (AWG) is a wire thickness system ranging 0-40. In this system, the higher the number = the thinner the wire. Speaker wires usually come in a 12-18 gauge range, though not always.

 

An audio signal encounters more resistance and power loss the further it travels.  Since thicker, lower gauge wires have the minimum resistance, it is typically best suited for carrying signals a long distance. In most cases a 12 or 14 AWG speaker wire will yield desirable results. That being said, a 12 AWG is not always necessary in order to accomplish your signal goals. In order to find the appropriate AWG speaker wire for your needs, first establish the cable run length then use this table.

 

Wire Run’s Obstacles

 

Consider whether or not the speaker wire is running through a wall or other obstacles. If the speaker wire doesn’t go through a wall, any wire type will do. If the wire does run inside walls, there is a bit more to check for.

In wall wires are required to be UL rated and CL2 or CL3 for safety reasons. These labels assure that the wire has been tested for flammability, current-based heat generation and vulnerability to damage. The UL label ensures that the wire is safe for consumer use in an in-wall installation.

 

Desired Sound Quality

 

For high quality sound, look at the conductor and shielding characteristics while choosing the speaker wire. For good sound results, the conductor should be made of high purity copper. The shielding is what blocks interference from adjacent power cords and fluorescent lighting. For in wall installations a shielded speaker cable is recommended in order protect from interference from nearby electrical lines.

While you can select larger gauge (thinner cable) for shorter runs, for high quality sound systems it is recommended to use smaller gauge. Regardless of the speaker wire cable run, the thicker gauge with its thicker conductor allows for a wider, clearer path for audio signals to travel smoothly.

Now you are ready to select the best fit speaker cable for your home audio system. Just remember to ask yourself what is the cable’s length? Does it do through a wall? What sound quality is desired? And what system quality are you connecting?

Good luck with the installation!

 

 

 

Speaker Wire Gauge: The Thickness Matters

One of the most critical aspects of speaker wire is its gauge, which refers to the thickness of the wire. Speaker wire gauge is usually denoted by a number, with lower numbers representing thicker wires. Thicker wires have lower resistance, allowing for a more efficient flow of electrical signals. For longer cable runs, thicker wire gauges are recommended to minimize signal loss and maintain audio fidelity.

When selecting speaker wire gauge, consider the distance between your amplifier or receiver and your speakers. For shorter distances, such as within a single room, a 16 or 14-gauge wire is often sufficient. However, for longer runs, especially between different floors or rooms, a thicker 12 or even 10-gauge wire may be a better choice. Remember, the right speaker wire gauge ensures that your audio signals reach your speakers without degradation.

Material Composition: Copper vs. Copper-Clad Aluminum

Speaker wire is commonly made from two primary materials: copper and copper-clad aluminum (CCA). Copper is an excellent conductor of electricity and is widely regarded as the optimal choice for speaker wire. Its low resistance and superior conductivity ensure that the audio signals remain strong and clear.

On the other hand, copper-clad aluminum is a more cost-effective alternative. It features an aluminum core with a thin layer of copper coating. While CCA wire can offer decent performance for shorter runs, it has higher resistance than pure copper, which may result in signal loss over longer distances.

For optimal audio quality, it is recommended to invest in high-quality, pure copper speaker wire. While it may be slightly more expensive, the enhanced performance and longevity it provides make it a worthwhile investment for any serious home audio enthusiast.

Speaker Wire Length: Keep it Practical

The length of your speaker wire plays a crucial role in determining the audio quality of your system. As the length of the wire increases, so does the resistance, which can lead to signal degradation. To maintain the integrity of your audio signals, it is advisable to keep your speaker wire lengths as short as possible, especially for higher gauge wires.

When planning your speaker wire layout, consider the placement of your amplifier or receiver and your speakers. Minimize unnecessary excess length and avoid sharp bends or kinks in the wire, as these can further increase resistance and negatively impact signal transmission. Proper cable management and routing can contribute to better audio performance.

Speaker Wire Terminations: Bare Wire, Banana Plugs, and Spade Connectors

Terminating your speaker wire correctly is essential for ensuring a secure and reliable connection between your amplifier, receiver, and speakers. There are several termination options available, each with its advantages and considerations.

Bare Wire: This is the simplest and most cost-effective termination method. However, bare wire connections can be prone to fraying and can be challenging to connect and disconnect frequently.

 

Banana Plugs: Banana plugs provide a convenient and secure connection, making them a popular choice among audio enthusiasts. They are easy to install and remove, and their design minimizes the risk of wire fraying.

 

Spade Connectors: Spade connectors offer a sturdy and reliable connection, often preferred for high-power setups. They provide a larger contact area and can be easily attached to binding posts on amplifiers and speakers.

When choosing a termination method, consider your specific needs, equipment, and preferences. Regardless of the method you select, ensuring a proper and secure connection is paramount to prevent signal loss and maintain optimal audio performance.